As much oil as the United States imports, the European Union imports more, although both spend the same portion of GDP, the EU GDP being slightly larger. And as high a portion of GDP as Europe and the US spend on oil, China, Japan and India spend higher, with India, the smallest GDP, spending the largest portion.
The chart shows the absolute number of dollars spent on oil imports, with the percentage of GDP written at the top of the bar. The yellow line represents 2011, the umber line is an estimate for 2012 (a little early, it must be admitted), and the blue line represents an average from 1990 to 2010. The 1990s were a period of very low oil prices, which is the reason the figure is so much beneath the recent years.
The EU is on track to import over $500 billion in oil in 2012, representing 2.7 percent of GDP. The US will only import about $430 billion, also representing 2.7 percent. In each instance, the figure is almost double the 1990-2010 average. China is already importing half as much oil as the US, with the figure represents 3.5 percent of GDP. Japan spends 3.2 percent of GDP, her output being slightly smaller. India spends the greatest portion of all, 5.9 percent of GDP, although it only imports about $130 billion.
The lesson seems to be that oil remains an essential commodity for all industrial nations. The recent run-up in world prices does not seem to have discouraged consumption and so far developing nations are increasing their imports just as fast as the advanced ones. The question is how long this will go on.